Part 4 out of 8
only such a small handful, these miserable
oppressors, before the unanimous will of our
"Your brother believed in the power of a
people's will to achieve anything?"
"It was his religion," declared Miss Haldin.
I looked at her calm face and her animated eyes.
"Of course the will must be awakened, inspired,
concentrated," she went on. "That is the true
task of real agitators. One has got to give up
one's life to it. The degradation of servitude,
the absolutist lies must be uprooted and swept
out. Reform is impossible. There is nothing to
reform. There is no legality, there are no
institutions. There are only arbitrary decrees.
There is only a handful of cruel--perhaps blind-
-officials against a nation."
The letter rustled slightly in her hand. I
glanced down at the flimsy blackened pages whose
very handwriting seemed cabalistic,
incomprehensible to the experience of Western
"Stated like this," I confessed, "the problem
seems simple enough. But I fear I shall not see
it solved. And if you go back to Russia I know
that I shall not see you again. Yet once more I
say: go back! Don't suppose that I am thinking
of your preservation. No! I know that you will
not be returning to personal safety. But I had
much rather think of you in danger there than
see you exposed to what may be met here."
"I tell you what," said Miss Haldin, after a
moment of reflection. "I believe that you hate
revolution; you fancy it's not quite honest.
You belong to a people which has made a bargain
with fate and wouldn't like to be rude to it.
But we have made no bargain. It was never
offered to us--so much liberty for so much hard
cash. You shrink from the idea of revolutionary
action for those you think well of as if it were
something--how shall I say it--not quite decent."
I bowed my head.
"You are quite right," I said. "I think very
highly of you"
"Don't suppose I do not know it," she began
hurriedly. "Your friendship has been very
"I have done little else but look on."
She was a little flushed under the eyes.
"There is a way of looking on which is valuable
I have felt less lonely because of it. It's
difficult to explain."
"Really? Well, I too have felt less lonely.
That's easy to explain, though. But it won't go
on much longer. The last thing I want to tell
you is this: in a real revolution--not a simple
dynastic change or a mere reform of institutions-
-in a real revolution the best characters do not
come to the front. A violent revolution falls
into the hands of narrow-minded fanatics and of
tyrannical hypocrites at first. Afterwards
comes the turn of all the pretentious
intellectual failures of the time. Such are the
chiefs and the leaders. You will notice that I
have left out the mere rogues. The scrupulous
and the just, the noble, humane, and devoted
natures; the unselfish and the intelligent may
begin a movement--but it passes away from them.
They are not the leaders of a revolution. They
are its victims: the victims of disgust, of
disenchantment--often of remorse. Hopes
grotesquely betrayed, ideals caricatured--that
is the definition of revolutionary success.
There have been in every revolution hearts
broken by such successes. But enough of that.
My meaning is that I don't want you to be a
"If I could believe all you have said I still
wouldn't think of myself," protested Miss
Haldin. "I would take liberty from any hand as
a hungry man would snatch at a piece of bread.
The true progress must begin after. And for
that the right men shall be found. They are
already amongst us. One comes upon them in
their obscurity, unknown, preparing themselves.
. . ."
She spread out the letter she had kept in her
hand all the time, and looking down at it--
"Yes! One comes upon such men!" she repeated,
and then read out the words, "Unstained, lofty,
and solitary existences."
Folding up the letter, while I looked at her
interrogatively, she explained--
"These are the words which my brother applies to
a young man he came to know in St. Petersburg.
An intimate friend, I suppose. It must be. His
is the only name my brother mentions in all his
correspondence with me. Absolutely the only
one, and--would you believe it?--the man is
here. He arrived recently in Geneva."
"Have you seen him?" I inquired. "But, of
course; you must have seen him."
"No! No! I haven't! I didn't know he was
here. It's Peter Ivanovitch himself who told
me. You have heard him yourself mentioning a
new arrival from Petersburg. . . . Well, that
is the man of 'unstained, lofty, and solitary
existence.' My brother's friend!"
"Compromised politically, I suppose," I remarked.
"I don't know. Yes. It must be so. Who knows!
Perhaps it was this very friendship with my
brother which. . . . But no! It is scarcely
possible. Really, I know nothing except what
Peter Ivanovitch told me of him. He has brought
a letter of introduction from Father Zosim--you
know, the priest-democrat; you have heard of
"Oh yes. The famous Father Zosim was staying
here in Geneva for some two months about a year
ago," I said. " When he left here he seems to
have disappeared from the world."
"It appears that he is at work in Russia again.
Somewhere in the centre," Miss Haldin said, with
animation. "But please don't mention that to
any one--don't let it slip from you, because if
it got into the papers it would be dangerous for
"You are anxious, of course, to meet that friend
of your brother?" I asked.
Miss Haldin put the letter into her pocket. Her
eyes looked beyond my shoulder at the door of
her mother's room.
"Not here," she murmured. "Not for the first
time, at least."
After a moment of silence I said good-bye, but
Miss Haldin followed me into the ante-room,
closing the door behind us carefully.
"I suppose you guess where I mean to go
"You have made up your mind to call on Madame de
"Yes. I am going to the Chateau Borel. I must."
"What do you expect to hear there?" I asked, in
a low voice.
I wondered if she were not deluding herself with
some impossible hope. It was not that, however.
"Only think--such a friend. The only man
mentioned in his letters. He would have
something to give me, if nothing more than a few
poor words. It may be something said and
thought in those last days. Would you want me
to turn my back on what is left of my poor
"Certainly not," I said. "I quite understand
your pious curiosity."
"--Unstained, lofty, and solitary existences,"
she murmured to herself. "There are! There
are! Well, let me question one of them about
the loved dead."
"How do you know, though, that you will meet him
there? Is he staying in the Chateau as a guest--
do you suppose?"
"I can't really tell," she confessed. "He
brought a written introduction from Father Zosim-
-who, it seems, is a friend of Madame de S---
too. She can't be such a worthless woman after
"There were all sorts of rumours afloat about
Father Zosim himself," I observed.
She shrugged her shoulders.
"Calumny is a weapon of our government too.
It's well known. Oh yes! It is a fact that
Father Zosim had the protection of the Governor-
General of a certain province. We talked on the
subject with my brother two years ago, I
remember. But his work was good. And now he is
proscribed. What better proof can one require.
But no matter what that priest was or is. All
that cannot affect my brother's friend. If I
don't meet him there I shall ask these people
for his address. And, of course, mother must
see him too, later on. There is no guessing
what he may have to tell us. It would be a
mercy if mamma could be soothed. You know what
she imagines. Some explanation perhaps may be
found, or--or even made up, perhaps. It would
be no sin."
"Certainly," I said, "it would be no sin. It
may be a mistake, though."
"I want her only to recover some of her old
spirit. While she is like this I cannot think
of anything calmly."
"Do you mean to invent some sort of pious fraud
for your mother's sake?" I asked.
"Why fraud? Such a friend is sure to know
something of my brother in these last days. He
could tell us. . . . There is something in the
facts which will not let me rest. I am certain
he meant to join us abroad--that he had some
plans--some great patriotic action in view; not
only for himself, but for both of us. I trusted
in that. I looked forward to the time! Oh!
with such hope and impatience. I could have
helped. And now suddenly this appearance of
recklessness--as if he had not cared. . . ."
She remained silent for a time, then obstinately
"I want to know. . . ."
Thinking it over, later on, while I walked
slowly away from the Boulevard des Philosophes,
I asked myself critically, what precisely was it
that she wanted to know? What I had heard of
her history was enough to give me a clue. In
the educational establishment for girls where
Miss Haldin finished her studies she was looked
upon rather unfavourably. She was suspected of
holding independent views on matters settled by
official teaching. Afterwards, when the two
ladies returned to their country place, both
mother and daughter, by speaking their minds
openly on public events, had earned for
themselves a reputation of liberalism. The
three-horse trap of the district police-captain
began to be seen frequently in their village.
"I must keep an eye on the peasants"--so he
explained his visits up at the house. "Two
lonely ladies must be looked after a little."
He would inspect the walls as though he wanted
to pierce them with his eyes, peer at the
photographs, turn over the books in the drawing-
room negligently, and after the usual
refreshments, would depart. But the old priest
of the village came one evening in the greatest
distress and agitation, to confess that he--the
priest--had been ordered to watch and ascertain
in other ways too (such as using his spiritual
power with the servants) all that was going on
in the house, and especially in respect of the
visitors these ladies received, who they were,
the length of their stay, whether any of them
were strangers to that part of the country, and
so on. The poor, simple old man was in an agony
of humiliation and terror. "I came to warn you.
Be cautious in your conduct, for the love of
God. I am burning with shame, but there is no
getting out from under the net. I shall have to
tell them what I see, because if I did not there
is my deacon. He would make the worst of things
to curry favour. And then my son-in-law, the
husband of my Parasha, who is a writer in the
Government Domain office; they would soon kick
him out--and maybe send him away somewhere."
The old man lamented the necessities of the
times--"when people do not agree somehow" and
wiped his eyes. He did not wish to spend the
evening of his days with a shaven head in the
penitent's cell of some monastery--"and
subjected to all the severities of
ecclesiastical discipline; for they would show
no mercy to an old man," he groaned. He became
almost hysterical, and the two ladies, full of
commiseration, soothed him the best they could
before they let him go back to his cottage.
But, as a matter of fact, they had very few
visitors. The neighbours--some of them old
friends--began to keep away; a few from
timidity, others with marked disdain, being
grand people that came only for the summer--Miss
Haldin explained to me--aristocrats,
reactionaries. It was a solitary existence for
a young girl. Her relations with her mother
were of the tenderest and most open kind; but
Mrs. Haldin had seen the experiences of her own
generation, its sufferings, its deceptions, its
apostasies too. Her affection for her children
was expressed by the suppression of all signs of
anxiety. She maintained a heroic reserve. To
Nathalie Haldin, her brother with his Petersburg
existence, not enigmatical in the least (there
could be no doubt of what he felt or thought)
but conducted a little mysteriously, was the
only visible representative of a proscribed
liberty. All the significance of freedom, its
indefinite promises, lived in their long
discussions, which breathed the loftiest hope of
action and faith in success. Then, suddenly,
the action, the hopes, came to an end with the
details ferreted out by the English journalist.
The concrete fact, the fact of his death
remained! but it remained obscure in its deeper
causes. She felt herself abandoned without
explanation. But she did not suspect him. What
she wanted was to learn almost at any cost how
she could remain faithful to his departed spirit.
Several days elapsed before I met Nathalie
Haldin again. I was crossing the place in front
of the theatre when I made out her shapely
figure in the very act of turning between the
gate pillars of the unattractive public
promenade of the Bastions. She walked away from
me, but I knew we should meet as she returned
down the main alley--unless, indeed, she were
going home. In that case, I don't think I
should have called on her yet. My desire to
keep her away from these people was as strong as
ever, but I had no illusions as to my power. I
was but a Westerner, and it was clear that Miss
Haldin would not, could not listen to my wisdom;
and as to my desire of listening to her voice,
it were better, I thought, not to indulge
overmuch in that pleasure. No, I should not
have gone to the Boulevard des Philosophes; but
when at about the middle of the principal alley
I saw Miss Haldin coming towards me, I was too
curious, and too honest, perhaps, to run away.
There was something of the spring harshness in
the air. The blue sky was hard, but the young
leaves clung like soft mist about the
uninteresting range of trees; and the clear sun
put little points of gold into the grey of Miss
Haldin's frank eyes, turned to me with a
I inquired after the health of her mother.
She had a slight movement of the shoulders and a
little sad sigh.
"But, you see, I did come out for a walk. . .for
exercise, as you English say."
I smiled approvingly, and she added an
" It is a glorious day."
Her voice, slightly harsh, but fascinating with
its masculine and bird-like quality, had the
accent of spontaneous conviction. I was glad of
it. It was as though she had become aware of
her youth--for there was but little of spring-
like glory in the rectangular railed space of
grass and trees, framed visibly by the orderly
roof-slopes of that town, comely without grace,
and hospitable without sympathy. In the very
air through which she moved there was but little
warmth; and the sky, the sky of a land without
horizons, swept and washed clean by the April
showers, extended a cold cruel blue, without
elevation, narrowed suddenly by the ugly, dark
wall of the Jura where, here and there, lingered
yet a few miserable trails and patches of snow.
All the glory of the season must have been
within herself--and I was glad this feeling had
come into her life, if only for a little time.
"I am pleased to hear you say these words." She
gave me a quick look. Quick, not stealthy. If
there was one thing of which she was absolutely
incapable, it was stealthiness, Her sincerity
was expressed in the very rhythm of her walk.
It was I who was looking at her covertly--if I
may say so. I knew where she had been, but I
did not know what she had seen and heard in that
nest of aristocratic conspiracies. I use the
word aristocratic, for want of a better term.
The Chateau Borel, embowered in the trees and
thickets of its neglected grounds, had its fame
in our day, like the residence of that other
dangerous and exiled woman, Madame de Stael, in
the Napoleonic era. Only the Napoleonic
despotism, the booted heir of the Revolution,
which counted that intellectual woman for an
enemy worthy to be watched, was something quite
unlike the autocracy in mystic vestments,
engendered by the slavery of a Tartar conquest.
And Madame de S--- was very far from resembling
the gifted author of _Corinne_. She made a
great noise about being persecuted. I don't
know if she were regarded in certain circles as
dangerous. As to being watched, I imagine that
the Chateau Borel could be subjected only to a
most distant observation. It was in its
exclusiveness an ideal abode for hatching
superior plots--whether serious or futile. But
all this did not interest me. I wanted to know
the effect its extraordinary inhabitants and its
special atmosphere had produced on a girl like
Miss Haldin, so true, so honest, but so
dangerously inexperienced! Her unconsciously
lofty ignorance of the baser instincts of
mankind left her disarmed before her own
impulses. And there was also that friend of her
brother, the significant new arrival from
Russia. . . . I wondered whether she had
managed to meet him.
We walked for some time, slowly and in silence.
"You know," I attacked her suddenly, "if you
don't intend telling me anything, you must say
so distinctly, and then, of course, it shall be
final. But I won't play at delicacy. I ask you
point-blank for all the details."
She smiled faintly at my threatening tone.
"You are as curious as a child."
"No. I am only an anxious old man," I replied
She rested her glance on me as if to ascertain
the degree of my anxiety or the number of my
years. My physiognomy has never been
expressive, I believe, and as to my years I am
not ancient enough as yet to be strikingly
decrepit. I have no long beard like the good
hermit of a romantic ballad; my footsteps are
not tottering, my aspect not that of a slow,
venerable sage. Those picturesque advantages
are not mine. I am old, alas, in a brisk,
commonplace way. And it seemed to me as though
there were some pity for me in Miss Haldin's
prolonged glance. She stepped out a little
"You ask for all the details. Let me see. I
ought to remember them. It was novel enough for
a--a village girl like me."
After a moment of silence she began by saying
that the Chateau Borel was almost as neglected
inside as outside. It was nothing to wonder at,
a Hamburg banker, I believe, retired from
business, had it built to cheer his remaining
days by the view of that lake whose precise,
orderly, and well-to-do beauty must have been
attractive to the unromantic imagination of a
business man. But he died soon. His wife
departed too (but only to Italy), and this house
of moneyed ease, presumably unsaleable, had
stood empty for several years. One went to it
up a gravel drive, round a large, coarse grass-
plot, with plenty of time to observe the
degradation of its stuccoed front. Miss Haldin
said that the impression was unpleasant. It
grew more depressing as one came nearer.
She observed green stains of moss on the steps
of the terrace. The front door stood wide open.
There was no one about. She found herself in a
wide, lofty, and absolutely empty hall, with a
good many doors. These doors were all shut. A
broad, bare stone staircase faced her, and the
effect of the whole was of an untenanted house.
She stood still, disconcerted by the solitude,
but after a while she became aware of a voice
speaking continuously somewhere.
"You were probably being observed all the time,"
I suggested. " There must have been eyes."
"I don't see how that could be," she retorted.
"I haven't seen even a bird in the grounds. I
don't remember hearing a single twitter in the
trees. The whole place appeared utterly
deserted except for the voice."
She could not make out the language--Russian,
French, or German. No one seemed to answer it.
It was as though the voice had been left behind
by the departed inhabitants to talk to the bare
walls. It went on volubly, with a pause now and
then. It was lonely and sad. The time seemed
very long to Miss Haldin. An invincible
repugnance prevented her from opening one of the
doors in the hall. It was so hopeless. No one
would come, the voice would never stop. She
confessed to me that she had to resist an
impulse to turn round and go away unseen, as she
''Really? You had that impulse?" I cried, full
of regret. "What a pity you did not obey it."
She shook her head.
"What a strange memory it would have been for
one. Those deserted grounds, that empty hall,
that impersonal, voluble voice, and--nobody,
nothing, not a soul."
The memory would have been unique and harmless.
But she was not a girl to run away from an
intimidating impression of solitude and mystery.
"No, I did not run away," she said. "I stayed
where I was--and I did see a soul. Such a
As she was gazing up the broad staircase, and
had concluded that the voice came from somewhere
above, a rustle of dress attracted her
attention. She looked down and saw a woman
crossing the hall, having issued apparently
through one of the many doors. Her face was
averted, so that at first she was not aware of
On turning her head and seeing a stranger, she
appeared very much startled. From her slender
figure Miss Haldin had taken her for a young
girl; but if her face was almost childishly
round, it was also sallow and wrinkled, with
dark rings under the eyes. A thick crop of
dusty brown hair was parted boyishly on the side
with a lateral wave above the dry, furrowed
forehead. After a moment of dumb blinking, she
suddenly squatted down on the floor.
"What do you mean by squatted down?" I asked,
astonished. "This is a very strange detail."
Miss Haldin explained the reason. This person
when first seen was carrying a small bowl in her
hand. She had squatted down to put it on the
floor for the benefit of a large cat, which
appeared then from behind her skirts, and hid
its head into the bowl greedily. She got up,
and approaching Miss Haldin asked with nervous
"What do you want? Who are you?"
Miss Haldin mentioned her name and also the name
of Peter Ivanovitch. The girlish, elderly woman
nodded and puckered her face into a momentary
expression of sympathy. Her black silk blouse
was old and even frayed in places; the black
serge skirt was short and shabby. She continued
to blink at close quarters, and her eyelashes
and eyebrows seemed shabby too. Miss Haldin,
speaking gently to her, as if to an unhappy and
sensitive person, explained how it was that her
visit could not be an altogether unexpected
event to Madame de S---.
"Ah! Peter Ivanovitch brought you an
invitation. How was I to know? A _dame de
compangnie_ is not consulted, as you may
The shabby woman laughed a little. Her teeth,
splendidly white and admirably even, looked
absurdly out of place, like a string of pearls
on the neck of a ragged tramp. "Peter
Ivanovitch is the greatest genius of the century
perhaps, but he is the most inconsiderate man
living. So if you have an appointment with him
you must not be surprised to hear that he is not
Miss Haldin explained that she had no
appointment with Peter Ivanovitch. She became
interested at once in that bizarre person.
"Why should he put himself out for you or any
one else? Oh! these geniuses. If you only
knew! Yes! And their books--I mean, of course,
the books that the world admires, the inspired
books. But you have not been behind the scenes.
Wait till you have to sit at a table for a half
a day with a pen in your hand. He can walk up
and down his rooms for hours and hours. I used
to get so stiff and numb that I was afraid I
would lose my balance and fall off the chair all
She kept her hands folded in front of her, and
her eyes, fixed on Miss Haldin's face, betrayed
no animation whatever. Miss Haldin, gathering
that the lady who called herself a _dame de
compangnie_ was proud of having acted as
secretary to Peter Ivanovitch, made an amiable
"You could not imagine a more trying
experience," declared the lady. "There is an
Anglo-American journalist interviewing Madame de
S--- now, or I would take you up," she continued
in a changed tone and glancing towards the
staircase. "I act as master of ceremonies."
It appeared that Madame de S--- could not bear
Swiss servants about her person; and, indeed,
servants would not stay for very long in the
Chateau Borel. There were always difficulties.
Miss Haldin had already noticed that the hall
was like a dusty barn of marble and stucco with
cobwebs in the corners and faint tracks of mud
on the black and white tessellated floor.
"I look also after this animal," continued the
_dame de compagnie_, keeping her hands folded
quietly in front of her; and she bent her worn
gaze upon the cat. "I don't mind a bit.
Animals have their rights; though, strictly
speaking, I see no reason why they should not
suffer as well as human beings. Do you? But of
course they never suffer so much. That is
impossible. Only, in their case it is more
pitiful because they cannot make a revolution.
I used to be a Republican. I suppose you are a
Miss Haldin confessed to me that she did not
know what to say. But she nodded slightly, and
asked in her turn--
"And are you no longer a Republican?"
"After taking down Peter Ivanovitch from
dictation for two years, it is difficult for me
to be anything. First of all, you have to sit
perfectly motionless. The slightest movement
you make puts to flight the ideas of Peter
Ivanovitch. You hardly dare to breathe. And as
to coughing--God forbid! Peter Ivanovitch
changed the position of the table to the wall
because at first I could not help raising my
eyes to look out of the window, while waiting
for him to go on with his dictation. That was
not allowed. He said I stared so stupidly. I
was likewise not permitted to look at him over
my shoulder. Instantly Peter Ivanovitch stamped
his foot, and would roar, 'Look down on the
paper!' It seems my expression, my face, put
him off. Well, I know that I am not beautiful,
and that my expression is not hopeful either.
He said that my air of unintelligent expectation
irritated him. These are his own words."
Miss Haldin was shocked, but admitted to me that
she was not altogether surprised.
"Is it possible that Peter Ivanovitch could
treat any woman so rudely?" she cried.
The _dame de compagnie_ nodded several times
with an air of discretion, then assured Miss
Haldin that she did not mind in the least. The
trying part of it was to have the secret of the
composition laid bare before her; to see the
great author of the revolutionary gospels grope
for words as if he were in the dark as to what
he meant to say.
"I am quite willing to be the blind instrument
of higher ends. To give one's life for the
cause is nothing. But to have one's illusions
destroyed--that is really almost more than one
can bear. I really don't exaggerate," she
insisted. "It seemed to freeze my very beliefs
in me--the more so that when we worked in winter
Peter Ivanovitch, walking up and down the room,
required no artificial heat to keep himself
warm. Even when we move to the South of France
there are bitterly cold days, especially when
you have to sit still for six hours at a
stretch. The walls of these villas on the
Riviera are so flimsy. Peter Ivanovitch did not
seem to be aware of anything. It is true that I
kept down my shivers from fear of putting him
out. I used to set my teeth till my jaws felt
absolutely locked. In the moments when Peter
Ivanovitch interrupted his dictation, and
sometimes these intervals were very long--often
twenty minutes, no less, while he walked to and
fro behind my back muttering to himself--I felt
I was dying by inches, I assure you. Perhaps if
I had let my teeth rattle Peter Ivanovitch might
have noticed my distress, but I don't think it
would have had any practical effect. She's very
miserly in such matters."
The _dame de compagnie_ glanced up the
staircase. The big cat had finished the milk
and was rubbing its whiskered cheek sinuously
against her skirt. She dived to snatch it up
from the floor.
"Miserliness is rather a quality than otherwise,
you know," she continued, holding the cat in her
folded arms. "With us it is misers who can
spare money for worthy objects--not the so-
called generous natures. But pray don't think I
am a sybarite. My father was a clerk in the
Ministry of Finances with no position at all.
You may guess by this that our home was far from
luxurious, though of course we did not actually
suffer from cold. I ran away from my parents,
you know, directly I began to think by myself.
It is not very easy, such thinking. One has got
to be put in the way of it, awakened to the
truth. I am indebted for my salvation to an old
apple-woman, who had her stall under the gateway
of the house we lived in. She had a kind
wrinkled face, and the most friendly voice
imaginable. One day, casually, we began to talk
about a child, a ragged little girl we had seen
begging from men in the streets at dusk; and
from one thing to another my eyes began to open
gradually to the horrors from which innocent
people are made to suffer in this world, only in
order that governments might exist. After I
once understood the crime of the upper classes,
I could not go on living with my parents. Not a
single charitable word was to be heard in our
home from year's end to year's end; there was
nothing but the talk of vile office intrigues,
and of promotion and of salaries, and of
courting the favour of the chiefs. The mere
idea of marrying one day such another man as my
father made me shudder. I don't mean that there
was anyone wanting to marry me. There was not
the slightest prospect of anything of the kind.
But was it not sin enough to live on a
Government salary while half Russia was dying of
hunger? The Ministry of Finances! What a
grotesque horror it is! What does the starving,
ignorant people want with a Ministry of
Finances? I kissed my old folks on both cheeks,
and went away from them to live in cellars, with
the proletariat. I tried to make myself useful
to the utterly hopeless. I suppose you
understand what I mean? I mean the people who
have nowhere to go and nothing to look forward
to in this life. Do you understand how
frightful that is--nothing to look forward to!
Sometimes I think that it is only in Russia that
there are such people and such a depth of misery
can be reached. Well, I plunged into it, and--
do you know--there isn't much that one can do in
there. No, indeed--at least as long as there
are Ministries of Finances and such like
grotesque horrors to stand in the way. I
suppose I would have gone mad there just trying
to fight the vermin, if it had not been for a
man. It was my old friend and teacher, the poor
saintly apple-woman, who discovered him for me,
quite accidentally. She came to fetch me late
one evening in her quiet way. I followed her
where she would lead; that part of my life was
in her hands altogether, and without her my
spirit would have perished miserably. The man
was a young workman, a lithographer by trade,
and he had got into trouble in connexion with
that affair of temperance tracts--you remember.
There was a lot of people put in prison for
that. The Ministry of Finances again! What
would become of it if the poor folk ceased
making beasts of themselves with drink? Upon my
word, I would think that finances and all the
rest of it are an invention of the devil; only
that a belief in a supernatural source of evil
is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of
every wickedness. Finances indeed!"
Hatred and contempt hissed in her utterance of
the word "finances," but at the very moment she
gently stroked the cat reposing in her arms.
She even raised them slightly, and inclining her
head rubbed her cheek against the fur of the
animal, which received this caress with the
complete detachment so characteristic of its
kind. Then looking at Miss Haldin she excused
herself once more for not taking her upstairs to
Madame S--- The interview could not be
interrupted. Presently the journalist would be
seen coming down the stairs. The best thing was
to remain in the hall; and besides, all these
rooms (she glanced all round at the many doors),
all these rooms on the ground floor were
"Positively there is no chair down here to offer
you," she continued. "But if you prefer your
own thoughts to my chatter, I will sit down on
the bottom step here and keep silent."
Miss Haldin hastened to assure her that, on the
contrary, she was very much interested in the
story of the journeyman lithographer. He was a
revolutionist, of course.
"A martyr, a simple man," said the _dame de
compangnie_, with a faint sigh, and gazing
through the open front door dreamily. She
turned her misty brown eyes on Miss Haldin.
"I lived with him for four months. It was like
As Miss Haldin looked at her inquisitively she
began to describe the emaciated face of the man,
his fleshless limbs, his destitution. The room
into which the apple-woman had led her was a
tiny garret, a miserable den under the roof of a
sordid house. The plaster fallen off the walls
covered the floor, and when the door was opened
a horrible tapestry of black cobwebs waved in
the draught. He had been liberated a few days
before--flung out of prison into the streets.
And Miss Haldin seemed to see for the first
time, a name and a face upon the body of that
suffering people whose hard fate had been the
subject of so many conversations, between her
and her brother, in the garden of their country
He had been arrested with scores and scores of
other people in that affair of the lithographed
temperance tracts. Unluckily, having got hold
of a great many suspected persons, the police
thought they could extract from some of them
other information relating to the revolutionist
"They beat him so cruelly in the course of
investigation," went on the _dame de compagnie_,
"that they injured him internally. When they
had done with him he was doomed. He could do
nothing for himself. I beheld him lying on a
wooden bedstead without any bedding, with his
head on a bundle of dirty rags, lent to him out
of charity by an old rag-picker, who happened to
live in the basement of the house. There he
was, uncovered, burning with fever, and there
was not even a jug in the room for the water to
quench his thirst with. There was nothing
whatever--just that bedstead and the bare floor."
"Was there no one in all that great town amongst
the liberals and revolutionaries, to extend a
helping hand to a brother?" asked Miss Haldin
"Yes. But you do not know the most terrible
part of that man's misery. Listen. It seems
that they ill-used him so atrociously that, at
last, his firmness gave way, and he did let out
some information. Poor soul, the flesh is weak,
you know. What it was he did not tell me.
There was a crushed spirit in that mangled body.
Nothing I found to say could make him whole.
When they let him out, he crept into that hole,
and bore his remorse stoically. He would not go
near anyone he knew. I would have sought
assistance for him, but, indeed, where could I
have gone looking for it? Where was I to look
for anyone who had anything to spare or any
power to help? The people living round us were
all starving and drunken. They were the victims
of the Ministry of Finances. Don't ask me how
we lived. I couldn't tell you. It was like a
miracle of wretchedness. I had nothing to sell,
and I assure you my clothes were in such a state
that it was impossible for me to go out in the
daytime. I was indecent. I had to wait till it
was dark before I ventured into the streets to
beg for a crust of bread, or whatever I could
get, to keep him and me alive. Often I got
nothing, and then I would crawl back and lie on
the floor by the side of his couch. Oh yes, I
can sleep quite soundly on bare boards. That is
nothing, and I am only mentioning it to you so
that you should not think I am a sybarite. It
was infinitely less killing than the task of
sitting for hours at a table in a cold study to
take the books of Peter Ivanovitch from
dictation. But you shall see yourself what that
is like, so I needn't say any more about it."
"It is by no means certain that I will ever take
Peter Ivanovitch from dictation," said Miss
"No!" cried the other incredulously. "Not
certain? You mean to say that you have not made
up your mind?"
When Miss Haldin assured her that there never
had been any question of that between her and
Peter Ivanovitch, the woman with the cat
compressed her lips tightly for a moment.
"Oh, you will find yourself settled at the table
before you know that you have made up your mind.
Don't make a mistake, it is disenchanting to
hear Peter Ivanovitch dictate, but at the same
time there is a fascination about it. He is a
man of genius. Your face is certain not to
irritate him; you may perhaps even help his
inspiration, make it easier for him to deliver
his message. As I look at you, I feel certain
that you are the kind of woman who is not likely
to check the flow of his inspiration."
Miss Haldin thought it useless to protest
against all these assumptions.
"But this man--this workman did he die under
your care?" she said, after a short silence.
The _dame de compagnie_, listening up the stairs
where now two voices were alternating with some
animation, made no answer for a time. When the
loud sounds of the discussion had sunk into an
almost inaudible murmur, she turned to Miss
"Yes, he died, but not, literally speaking, in
my arms, as you might suppose. As a matter of
fact, I was asleep when he breathed his last.
So even now I cannot say I have seen anybody
die. A few days before the end, some young men
found us out in our extremity. They were
revolutionists, as you might guess. He ought to
have trusted in his political friends when he
came out of prison. He had been liked and
respected before, and nobody would have dreamed
of reproaching him with his indiscretion before
the police. Everybody knows how they go to
work, and the strongest man has his moments of
weakness before pain. Why, even hunger alone is
enough to give one queer ideas as to what may be
done. A doctor came, our lot was alleviated as
far as physical comforts go, but otherwise he
could not be consoled--poor man. I assure you,
Miss Haldin, that he was very lovable, but I had
not the strength to weep. I was nearly dead
myself. But there were kind hearts to take care
of me. A dress was found to clothe my
nakedness. I tell you, I was not decent--and
after a time the revolutionists placed me with a
Jewish family going abroad, as governess. Of
course I could teach the children, I finished
the sixth class of the Lyceum; but the real
object was, that I should carry some important
papers across the frontier. I was entrusted
with a packet which I carried next my heart.
The gendarmes at the station did not suspect the
governess of a Jewish family, busy looking after
three children. I don't suppose those Hebrews
knew what I had on me, for I had been introduced
to them in a very roundabout way by persons who
did not belong to the revolutionary movement,
and naturally I had been instructed to accept a
very small salary. When we reached Germany I
left that family and delivered my papers to a
revolutionist in Stuttgart; after this I was
employed in various ways. But you do not want
to hear all that. I have never felt that I was
very useful, but I live in hopes of seeing all
the Ministries destroyed, finances and all. The
greatest joy of my life has been to hear what
your brother has done."
She directed her round eyes again to the
sunshine outside, while the cat reposed within
her folded arms in lordly beatitude and sphinx-
"Yes! I rejoiced," she began again. "For me
there is a heroic ring about the very name of
Haldin. They must have been trembling with fear
in their Ministries--all those men with fiendish
hearts. Here I stand talking to you, and when I
think of all the cruelties, oppressions, and
injustices that are going on at this very
moment, my head begins to swim. I have looked
closely at what would seem inconceivable if
one's own eyes had not to be trusted. I have
looked at things that made me hate myself for my
helplessness. I hated my hands that had no
power, my voice that could not be heard, my very
mind that would not become unhinged. Ah! I
have seen things. And you?"
Miss Haldin was moved. She shook her head
"No, I have seen nothing for myself as yet," she
murmured "We have always lived in the country.
It was my brother's wish."
"It is a curious meeting--this--between you and
me," continued the other. "Do you believe in
chance, Miss Haldin? How could I have expected
to see you, his sister, with my own eyes? Do
you know that when the news came the
revolutionaries here were as much surprised as
pleased, every bit? No one seemed to know
anything about your brother. Peter Ivanovitch
himself had not foreseen that such a blow was
going to be struck. I suppose your brother was
simply inspired. I myself think that such deeds
should be done by inspiration. It is a great
privilege to have the inspiration and the
opportunity. Did he resemble you at all? Don't
you rejoice, Miss Haldin?"
"You must not expect too much from me," said
Miss Haldin, repressing an inclination to cry
which came over her suddenly. She succeeded,
then added calmly, "I am not a heroic person!"
"You think you couldn't have done such a thing
"I don't know. I must not even ask myself till
I have lived a little longer, seen more. . . ."
The other moved her head appreciatively. The
purring of the cat had a loud complacency in the
empty hall. No sound of voices came from
upstairs. Miss Haldin broke the silence.
"What is it precisely that you heard people say
about my brother? You said that they were
surprised. Yes, I supposed they were. Did it
not seem strange to them that my brother should
have failed to save himself after the most
difficult part--that is, getting away from the
spot--was over? Conspirators should understand
these things well. There are reasons why I am
very anxious to know how it is he failed to
The _dame de compagnie_ had advanced to the open
hall-door. She glanced rapidly over her
shoulder at Miss Haldin, who remained within the
"Failed to escape," she repeated absently.
"Didn't he make the sacrifice of his life?
Wasn't he just simply inspired? Wasn't it an
act of abnegation? Aren't you certain?"
"What I am certain of," said Miss Haldin, "is
that it was not an act of despair. Have you not
heard some opinion expressed here upon his
The _dame de compagnie_ mused for a while in the
"Did I hear? Of course, everything is discussed
here. Has not all the world been speaking about
your brother? For my part, the mere mention of
his achievement plunges me into an envious
ecstasy. Why should a man certain of
immortality think of his life at all?"
She kept her back turned to Miss Haldin.
Upstairs from behind a great dingy white and
gold door, visible behind the balustrade of the
first floor landing, a deep voice began to drone
formally, as if reading over notes or something
of the sort. It paused frequently, and then
"I don't think I can stay any longer now," said
Miss Haldin. "I may return another day."
She waited for the _dame de compagnie_ to make
room for her exit; but the woman appeared lost
in the contemplation of sunshine and shadows,
sharing between themselves the stillness of the
deserted grounds. She concealed the view of the
drive from Miss Haldin. Suddenly she said--
"It will not be necessary; here is Peter
Ivanovitch himself coming up. But he is not
alone. He is seldom alone now."
Hearing that Peter Ivanovitch was approaching,
Miss Haldin was not so pleased as she might have
been expected to be. Somehow she had lost the
desire to see either the heroic captive or
Madame de S---, and the reason of that shrinking
which came upon her at the very last minute is
accounted for by the feeling that those two
people had not been treating the woman with the
"Would you please let me pass?" said Miss Haldin
at last, touching lightly the shoulder of the
_dame de compagnie_.
But the other, pressing the cat to her breast,
did not budge.
"I know who is with him," she said, without even
More unaccountably than ever Miss Haldin felt a
strong impulse to leave the house.
"Madame de S--- may be engaged for some time
yet, and what I have got to say to Peter
Ivanovitch is just a simple question which I
might put to him when I meet him in the grounds
on my way down. I really think I must go. I
have been some time here, and I am anxious to
get back to my mother. Will you let me pass,
The _dame de compagnie_ turned her head at last.
"I never supposed that you really wanted to see
Madame de S---," she said, with unexpected
insight. "Not for a moment." There was
something confidential and mysterious in her
tone. She passed through the door, with Miss
Haldin following her, on to the terrace, and
they descended side by side the moss-grown stone
steps. There was no one to be seen on the part
of the drive visible from the front of the house.
"They are hidden by the trees over there,"
explained Miss Haldin's new acquaintance, "but
you shall see them directly. I don't know who
that young man is to whom Peter Ivanovitch has
taken such a fancy. He must be one of us, or he
would not be admitted here when the others come.
You know what I mean by the others. But I must
say that he is not at all mystically inclined.
I don't know that I have made him out yet.
Naturally I am never for very long in the
drawing-room. There is always something to do
for me, though the establishment here is not so
extensive as the villa on the Riviera. But
still there are plenty of opportunities for me
to make myself useful."
To the left, passing by the ivy-grown end of the
stables, appeared Peter Ivanovitch and his
companion. They walked very slowly, conversing
with some animation. They stopped for a moment,
and Peter Ivanovitch was seen to gesticulate,
while the young man listened motionless, with
his arms hanging down and his head bowed a
little. He was dressed in a dark brown suit and
a black hat. The round eyes of the _dame de
compagnie_ remained fixed on the two figures,
which had resumed their leisurely approach.
"An extremely polite young man," she said. "You
shall see what a bow he will make; and it won't
altogether be so exceptional either. He bows in
the same way when he meets me alone in the hall."
She moved on a few steps, with Miss Haldin by
her side, and things happened just as she had
foretold. The young man took off his hat, bowed
and fell back, while Peter Ivanovitch advanced
quicker, his black, thick arms extended
heartily, and seized hold of both Miss Haldin's
hands, shook them, and peered at her through his
"That's right, that's right!" he exclaimed
twice, approvingly. "And so you have been
looked after by. . . ." He frowned slightly at
the _dame de compagnie_, who was still nursing
the cat. "I conclude Eleanor--Madame de S--- is
engaged. I know she expected somebody to-day.
So the newspaper man did turn up, eh? She is
For all answer the _dame de compagnie_ turned
away her head.
"It is very unfortunate--very unfortunate
indeed. I very much regret that you should have
been. . . ." He lowered suddenly his voice.
"But what is it--surely you are not departing,
Natalia Victorovna? You got bored waiting,
"Not in the least," Miss Haldin protested.
"Only I have been here some time, and I am
anxious to get back to my mother."
"The time seemed long, eh? I am afraid our
worthy friend here" (Peter Ivanovitch suddenly
jerked his head sideways towards his right
shoulder and jerked it up again),--"our worthy
friend here has not the art of shortening the
moments of waiting. No, distinctly she has not
the art; and in that respect good intentions
alone count for nothing."
The _dame de compagnie_ dropped her arms, and
the cat found itself suddenly on the ground. It
remained quite still after alighting, one hind
leg stretched backwards. Miss Haldin was
extremely indignant on behalf of the lady
"Believe me, Peter Ivanovitch, that the moments
I have passed in the hall of this house have
been not a little interesting, and very
instructive too. They are memorable. I do not
regret the waiting, but I see that the object of
my call here can be attained without taking up
Madame de S---'s time."
At this point I interrupted Miss Haldin. The
above relation is founded on her narrative,
which I have not so much dramatized as might be
supposed. She had rendered, with extraordinary
feeling and animation, the very accent almost of
the disciple of the old apple-woman, the
irreconcilable hater of Ministries, the
voluntary servant of the poor. Miss Haldin's
true and delicate humanity had been extremely
shocked by the uncongenial fate of her new
acquaintance, that lady companion, secretary,
whatever she was. For my own part, I was
pleased to discover in it one more obstacle to
intimacy with Madame de S---. I had a positive
abhorrence for the painted, bedizened, dead-
faced, glassy-eyed Egeria of Peter Ivanovitch.
I do not know what was her attitude to the
unseen, but I know that in the affairs of this
world she was avaricious, greedy, and
unscrupulous. It was within my knowledge that
she had been worsted in a sordid and desperate
quarrel about money matters with the family of
her late husband, the diplomatist. Some very
august personages indeed (whom in her fury she
had insisted upon scandalously involving in her
affairs) had incurred her animosity. I find it
perfectly easy to believe that she had come to
within an ace of being spirited away, for
reasons of state, into some discreet _maison de
sante_--a madhouse of sorts, to be plain. It
appears, however, that certain high-placed
personages opposed it for reasons which. . . .
But it's no use to go into details.
Wonder may be expressed at a man in the position
of a teacher of languages knowing all this with
such definiteness. A novelist says this and
that of his personages, and if only he knows how
to say it earnestly enough he may not be
questioned upon the inventions of his brain in
which his own belief is made sufficiently
manifest by a telling phrase, a poetic image,
the accent of emotion. Art is great! But I
have no art, and not having invented Madame de S-
--, I feel bound to explain how I came to know
so much about her.
My informant was the Russian wife of a friend of
mine already mentioned, the professor of
Lausanne University. It was from her that I
learned the last fact of Madame de S---'s
history, with which I intend to trouble my
readers. She told me, speaking positively, as a
person who trusts her sources, of the cause of
Madame de S---'s flight from Russia, some years
before. It was neither more nor less than this:
that she became suspect to the police in
connexion with the assassination of the Emperor
Alexander. The ground of this suspicion was
either some unguarded expressions that escaped
her in public, or some talk overheard in her
salon. Overheard, we must believe, by some
guest, perhaps a friend, who hastened to play
the informer, I suppose. At any rate, the
overheard matter seemed to imply her
foreknowledge of that event, and I think she was
wise in not waiting for the investigation of
such a charge. Some of my readers may remember
a little book from her pen, published in Paris,
a mystically bad-tempered, declamatory, and
frightfully disconnected piece of writing, in
which she all but admits the foreknowledge, more
than hints at its supernatural origin, and
plainly suggests in venomous innuendoes that the
guilt of the act was not with the terrorists,
but with a palace intrigue. When I observed to
my friend, the professor's wife, that the life
of Madame de S---, with its unofficial
diplomacy, its intrigues, lawsuits, favours,
disgrace, expulsions, its atmosphere of scandal,
occultism, and charlatanism, was more fit for
the eighteenth century than for the conditions
of our own time, she assented with a smile, but
a moment after went on in a reflective tone:
"Charlatanism?--yes, in a certain measure.
Still, times are changed. There are forces now
which were non-existent in the eighteenth
century. I should not be surprised if she were
more dangerous than an Englishman would be
willing to believe. And what's more, she is
looked upon as really dangerous by certain
_Chez nous_ in this connexion meant Russia in
general, and the Russian political police in
particular. The object of my digression from
the straight course of Miss Haldin's relation
(in my own words) of her visit to the Chateau
Borel, was to bring forward that statement of my
friend, the professor's wife. I wanted to bring
it forward simply to make what I have to say
presently of Mr. Razumov's presence in Geneva, a
little more credible--for this is a Russian
story for Western ears, which, as I have
observed already, are not attuned to certain
tones of cynicism and cruelty, of moral
negation, and even of moral distress already
silenced at our end of Europe. And this I state
as my excuse for having left Miss Haldin
standing, one of the little group of two women
and two men who had come together below the
terrace of the Chateau Borel.
The knowledge which I have just stated was in my
mind when, as I have said, I interrupted Miss
Haldin. I interrupted her with the cry of
"So you never saw Madame de S---, after all?"
Miss Haldin shook her head. It was very
satisfactory to me. She had not seen Madame de
S---! That was excellent, excellent! I
welcomed the conviction that she would never
know Madame de S--- now. I could not explain
the reason of the conviction but by the
knowledge that Miss Haldin was standing face to
face with her brother's wonderful friend. I
preferred him to Madame de S--- as the companion
and guide of that young girl, abandoned to her
inexperience by the miserable end of her
brother. But, at any rate, that life now ended
had been sincere, and perhaps its thoughts might
have been lofty, its moral sufferings profound,
its last act a true sacrifice. It is not for
us, the staid lovers calmed by the possession of
a conquered liberty, to condemn without appeal
the fierceness of thwarted desire.
I am not ashamed of the warmth of my regard for
Miss Haldin. It was, it must be admitted, an
unselfish sentiment, being its own reward. The
late Victor Haldin--in the light of that
sentiment--appeared to me not as a sinister
conspirator, but as a pure enthusiast. I did
not wish indeed to judge him, but the very fact
that he did not escape, that fact which brought
so much trouble to both his mother and his
sister, spoke to me in his favour. Meantime, in
my fear of seeing the girl surrender to the
influence of the Chateau Borel revolutionary
feminism, I was more than willing to put my
trust in that friend of the late Victor Haldin.
He was nothing but a name, you will say.
Exactly! A name! And what's more, the only
name; the only name to be found in the
correspondence between brother and sister. The
young man had turned up; they had come face to
face, and, fortunately, without the direct
interference of Madame de S---. What will come
of it ? what will she tell me presently? I was
It was only natural that my thought should turn
to the young man, the bearer of the only name
uttered in all the dream-talk of a future to be
brought about by a revolution. And my thought
took the shape of asking myself why this young
man had not called upon these ladies. He had
been in Geneva for some days before Miss Haldin
heard of him first in my presence from Peter
Ivanovitch. I regretted that last's presence at
their meeting. I would rather have had it
happen somewhere out of his spectacled sight.
But I supposed that, having both these young
people there, he introduced them to each other.
I broke the silence by beginning a question on
"I suppose Peter Ivanovitch. . . ."
Miss Haldin gave vent to her indignation. Peter
Ivanovitch directly he had got his answer from
her had turned upon the _dame de compagnie_ in a
"Turned upon her?" I wondered. "What about?
For what reason? "
"It was unheard of; it was shameful," Miss
Haldin pursued, with angry eyes. " _Il lui a
fait une scene_--like this, before strangers.
And for what? You would never guess. For some
eggs. . . . Oh!"
I was astonished. "Eggs, did you say?"
"For Madame de S---. That lady observes a
special diet, or something of the sort. It
seems she complained the day before to Peter
Ivanovitch that the eggs were not rightly
prepared. Peter Ivanovitch suddenly remembered
this against the poor woman, and flew out at
her. It was most astonishing. I stood as if
"Do you mean to say that the great feminist
allowed himself to be abusive to a woman?" I
"Oh, not that! It was something you have no
conception of. It was an odious performance.
Imagine, he raised his hat to begin with. He
made his voice soft and deprecatory. 'Ah! you
are not kind to us--you will not deign to
remember. . . .' This sort of phrases, that
sort of tone. The poor creature was terribly
upset. Her eyes ran full of tears. She did not
know where to look. I shouldn't wonder if she
would have preferred abuse, or even a blow."
I did not remark that very possibly she was
familiar with both on occasions when no one was
by. Miss Haldin walked by my side, her head up
in scornful and angry silence.
"Great men have their surprising peculiarities,"
I observed inanely. "Exactly like men who are
not great. But that sort of thing cannot be
kept up for ever. How did the great feminist
wind up this very characteristic episode?"
Miss Haldin, without turning her face my way,
told me that the end was brought about by the
appearance of the interviewer, who had been
closeted with Madame de S---.
He came up rapidly, unnoticed, lifted his hat
slightly, and paused to say in French: "The
Baroness has asked me, in case I met a lady on
my way out, to desire her to come in at once."
After delivering this message, he hurried down
the drive. The _dame de compagnie_ flew towards
the house, and Peter Ivanovitch followed her
hastily, looking uneasy. In a moment Miss
Haldin found herself alone with the young man,
who undoubtedly must have been the new arrival
from Russia. She wondered whether her brother's
friend had not already guessed who she was.
I am in a position to say that, as a matter of
fact, he had guessed. It is clear to me that
Peter Ivanovitch, for some reason or other, had
refrained from alluding to these ladies'
presence in Geneva. But Razumov had guessed.
The trustful girl! Every word uttered by Haldin
lived in Razumov's memory. They were like
haunting shapes; they could not be exorcised.
The most vivid amongst them was the mention of
the sister. The girl had existed for him ever
since. But he did not recognize her at once.
Coming up with Peter Ivanovitch, he did observe
her; their eyes had met, even. He had
responded, as no one could help responding, to
the harmonious charm of her whole person, its
strength, its grace, its tranquil frankness--and
then he had turned his gaze away. He said to
himself that all this was not for him; the
beauty of women and the friendship of men were
not for him. He accepted that feeling with a
purposeful sternness, and tried to pass on. It
was only her outstretched hand which brought
about the recognition. It stands recorded in
the pages of his self-confession, that it nearly
suffocated him physically with an emotional
reaction of hate and dismay, as though her
appearance had been a piece of accomplished
He faced about. The considerable elevation of
the terrace concealed them from anyone lingering
in the doorway of the house; and even from the
upstairs windows they could not have been seen.
Through the thickets run wild, and the trees of
the gently sloping grounds, he had cold, placid
glimpses of the lake. A moment of perfect
privacy had been vouchsafed to them at this
juncture. I wondered to myself what use they
had made of that fortunate circumstance.
"Did you have time for more than a few words?" I
That animation with which she had related to me
the incidents of her visit to the Chateau Borel
had left her completely. Strolling by my side,
she looked straight before her; but I noticed a
little colour on her cheek. She did not answer
After some little time I observed that they
could not have hoped to remain forgotten for
very long, unless the other two had discovered
Madame de S--- swooning with fatigue, perhaps,
or in a state of morbid exaltation after the
long interview. Either would require their
devoted ministrations. I could depict to myself
Peter Ivanovitch rushing busily out of the house
again, bareheaded, perhaps, and on across the
terrace with his swinging gait, the black skirts
of the frock-coat floating clear of his stout
light grey legs. I confess to having looked
upon these young people as the quarry of the
"heroic fugitive." I had the notion that they
would not be allowed to escape capture. But of
that I said nothing to Miss Haldin, only as she
still remained uncommunicative, I pressed her a
"Well--but you can tell me at least your
She turned her head to look at me, and turned
"Impression?" she repeated slowly, almost
dreamily; then in a quicker tone--
"He seems to be a man who has suffered more from
his thoughts than from evil fortune."
"From his thoughts, you say?"
"And that is natural enough in a Russian," she
took me up." In a young Russian; so many of
them are unfit for action, and yet unable to
"And you think he is that sort of man?"
"No, I do not judge him. How could I, so
suddenly? You asked for my impression--I
explain my impression. I--I--don't know the
world, nor yet the people in it; I have been too
solitary--I am too young to trust my own
"Trust your instinct," I advised her. "Most
women trust to that, and make no worse mistakes
than men. In this case you have your brother's
letter to help you"
She drew a deep breath like a light sigh.
"Unstained, lofty, and solitary existences," she
quoted as if to herself. But I caught the
wistful murmur distinctly.
"High praise, "I whispered to her.''
"The highest possible."
"So high that, like the award of happiness, it
is more fit to come only at the end of a life.
But still no common or altogether unworthy
personality could have suggested such a
confident exaggeration of praise and. . . ."
"Ah!" She interrupted me ardently. "And if you
had only known the heart from which that
judgment has come!"
She ceased on that note, and for a space I
reflected on the character of the words which I
perceived very well must tip the scale of the
girl's feelings in that young man's favour.
They had not the sound of a casual utterance.
Vague they were to my Western mind and to my
Western sentiment, but I could not forget that,
standing by Miss Haldin's side, I was like a
traveller in a strange country. It had also
become clear to me that Miss Haldin was
unwilling to enter into the details of the only
material part of their visit to the Chateau
Borel. But I was not hurt. Somehow I didn't
feel it to be a want of confidence. It was some
other difficulty--a difficulty I could not
resent. And it was without the slightest
resentment that I said--
"Very well. But on that high ground, which I
will not dispute, you, like anyone else in such
circumstances, you must have made for yourself a
representation of that exceptional friend, a
mental image of him, and--please tell me--you
were not disappointed?"
"What do you mean? His personal appearance?"
"I don't mean precisely his good looks, or
We turned at the end of the alley and made a few
steps without looking at each other.
"His appearance is not ordinary," said Miss
Haldin at last.
"No, I should have thought not--from the little
you've said of your first impression. After
all, one has to fall back on that word.
Impression! What I mean is that something
indescribable which is likely to mark a 'not
I perceived that she was not listening. There
was no mistaking her expression; and once more I
had the sense of being out of it--not because of
my age, which at any rate could draw inferences--
but altogether out of it, on another plane
whence I could only watch her from afar. And so
ceasing to speak I watched her stepping out by
"No, she exclaimed suddenly, "I could not have
been disappointed with a man of such strong
"Aha! Strong feeling, "I muttered, thinking to
myself censoriously: like this, at once, all in
"What did you say?" inquired Miss Haldin
"Oh, nothing. I beg your pardon. Strong
feeling. I am not surprised."
"And you don't know how abruptly I behaved to
him!" she cried remorsefully.
I suppose I must have appeared surprised, for,
looking at me with a still more heightened
colour, she said she was ashamed to admit that
she had not been sufficiently collected; she had
failed to control her words and actions as the
situation demanded. She lost the fortitude
worthy of both the men, the dead and the living;
the fortitude which should have been the note of
the meeting of Victor Haldin's sister with
Victor Haldin's only known friend. He was
looking at her keenly, but said nothing, and she
was--she confessed--painfully affected by his
want of comprehension. All she could say was:
"You are Mr. Razumov." A slight frown passed
over his forehead. After a short, watchful
pause, he made a little bow of assent, and
At the thought that she had before her the man
so highly regarded by her brother, the man who
had known his value, spoken to him, understood
him, had listened to his confidences, perhaps
had encouraged him--her lips trembled, her eyes
ran full of tears; she put out her hand, made a
step towards him impulsively, saying with an
effort to restrain her emotion, "Can't you guess
who I am?" He did not take the proffered hand.
He even recoiled a pace, and Miss Haldin
imagined that he was unpleasantly affected.
Miss Haldin excused him, directing her
displeasure at herself. She had behaved
unworthily, like an emotional French girl. A
manifestation of that kind could not be welcomed
by a man of stern, self-contained character.
He must have been stern indeed, or perhaps very
timid with women, not to respond in a more human
way to the advances of a girl like Nathalie
Haldin--I thought to myself. Those lofty and
solitary existences (I remembered the words
suddenly) make a young man shy and an old man
"Well," I encouraged Miss Haldin to proceed.
She was still very dissatisfied with herself.
"I went from bad to worse," she said, with an
air of discouragement very foreign to her. "I
did everything foolish except actually bursting
into tears. I am thankful to say I did not do
that. But I was unable to speak for quite a
She had stood before him, speechless, swallowing
her sobs, and when she managed at last to utter
something, it was only her brother's name--
"Victor--Victor Haldin!" she gasped out, and
again her voice failed her.
"Of course," she commented to me, "this
distressed him. He was quite overcome. I have
told you my opinion that he is a man of deep
feeling--it is impossible to doubt it. You
should have seen his face. He positively
reeled. He leaned against the wall of the
terrace. Their friendship must have been the
very brotherhood of souls! I was grateful to
him for that emotion, which made me feel less
ashamed of my own lack of self-control. Of
course I had regained the power of speech at
once, almost. All this lasted not more than a
few seconds. 'I am his sister,' I said. 'Maybe
you have heard of me.'"
" And had he?" I interrupted.
"I don't know. How could it have been
otherwise? And yet. . . . But what does that
matter? I stood there before him, near enough
to be touched and surely not looking like an
impostor. All I know is, that he put out both
his hands then to me, I may say flung them out
at me, with the greatest readiness and warmth,
and that I seized and pressed them, feeling that
I was finding again a little of what I thought
was lost to me for ever, with the loss of my
brother--some of that hope, inspiration, and
support which I used to get from my dear dead. .
I understood quite well what she meant. We
strolled on slowly. I refrained from looking at
her. And it was as if answering my own thoughts
that I murmured--
"No doubt it was a great friendship--as you say.
And that young man ended by welcoming your
name, so to speak, with both hands. After that,
of course, you would understand each other.
Yes, you would understand each other quickly."
It was a moment before I heard her voice.
"Mr. Razumov seems to be a man of few words. A
reserved man--even when he is strongly moved."
Unable to forget---or even to forgive--the bass-
toned expansiveness of Peter Ivanovitch, the
Archpatron of revolutionary parties, I said that
I took this for a favourable trait of character.
It was associated with sincerity--in my mind.
"And, besides, we had not much time," she added.
"No, you would not have, of course." My
suspicion and even dread of the feminist and his
Egeria was so ineradicable that I could not help
asking with real anxiety, which I made smiling--
"But you escaped all right?"
She understood me, and smiled too, at my
"Oh yes! I escaped, if you like to call it
that. I walked away quickly. There was no need
to run. I am neither frightened nor yet
fascinated, like that poor woman who received me
"And Mr.--Mr. Razumov. . .?"
"He remained there, of course. I suppose he
went into the house after I left him. You
remember that he came here strongly recommended
to Peter Ivanovitch--possibly entrusted with
important messages for him."
"Ah yes! From that priest who. . . ."
"Father Zosim--yes. Or from others, perhaps."
"You left him, then. But have you seen him
since, may I ask?"
For some time Miss Haldin made no answer to this
very direct question, then--
"I have been expecting to see him here to-day,"
she said quietly.
"You have! Do you meet, then, in this garden?
In that case I had better leave you at once."
"No, why leave me? And we don't meet in this
garden. I have not seen Mr. Razumov since that
first time. Not once. But I have been
expecting him. . . ."
She paused. I wondered to myself why that young
revolutionist should show so little alacrity.
"Before we parted I told Mr. Razumov that I
walked here for an hour every day at this time.
I could not explain to him then why I did not
ask him to come and see us at once. Mother must
be prepared for such a visit. And then, you
see, I do not know myself what Mr. Razumov has
to tell us. He, too, must be told first how it
is with poor mother. All these thoughts flashed
through my mind at once. So I told him
hurriedly that there was a reason why I could
not ask him to see us at home, but that I was in
the habit of walking here. . . . This is a
public place, but there are never many people
about at this hour. I thought it would do very
well. And it is so near our apartments. I
don't like to be very far away from mother. Our
servant knows where I am in case I should be
"Yes. It is very convenient from that point of
view," I agreed.
In fact, I thought the Bastions a very
convenient place, since the girl did not think
it prudent as yet to introduce that young man to
her mother. It was here, then, I thought,
looking round at that plot of ground of
deplorable banality, that their acquaintance
will begin and go on in the exchange of generous
indignations and of extreme sentiments, too
poignant, perhaps, for a non-Russian mind to
conceive. I saw these two, escaped out of four
score of millions of human beings ground between
the upper and nether millstone, walking under
these trees, their young heads close together.
Yes, an excellent place to stroll and talk in.
It even occurred to me, while we turned once
more away from the wide iron gates, that when
tired they would have plenty of accommodation to
rest themselves. There was a quantity of tables
and chairs displayed between the restaurant
chalet and the bandstand, a whole raft of
painted deals spread out under the trees. In
the very middle of it I observed a solitary
Swiss couple, whose fate was made secure from
the cradle to the grave by the perfected
mechanism of democratic institutions in a
republic that could almost be held in the palm
of ones hand. The man, colourlessly uncouth,
was drinking beer out of a glittering glass; the
woman, rustic and placid, leaning back in the
rough chair, gazed idly around.
There is little logic to be expected on this
earth, not only in the matter of thought, but
also of sentiment. I was surprised to discover
myself displeased with that unknown young man.
A week had gone by since they met. Was he
callous, or shy, or very stupid? I could not
make it out.
"Do you think," I asked Miss Haldin, after we
had gone some distance up the great alley, "that
Mr Razumov understood your intention? "
"Understood what I meant?" she wondered. "He
was greatly moved. That I know! In my own
agitation I could see it. But I spoke
distinctly. He heard me; he seemed, indeed, to
hang on my words. . ."
Unconsciously she had hastened her pace. Her
utterance, too, became quicker.
I waited a little before I observed thoughtfully-
"And yet he allowed all these days to pass."
"How can we tell what work he may have to do
here? He is not an idler travelling for his
pleasure. His time may not be his own--nor yet
his thoughts, perhaps."
She slowed her pace suddenly, and in a lowered
"Or his very life"--then paused and stood still
"For all I know, he may have had to leave Geneva
the very day he saw me."
"Without telling you!" I exclaimed
"I did not give him time. I left him quite
abruptly. I behaved emotionally to the end. I
am sorry for it. Even if I had given him the
opportunity he would have been justified in
taking me for a person not to be trusted. An
emotional, tearful girl is not a person to
confide in. But even if he has left Geneva for
a time, I am confident that we shall meet again."
"Ah! you are confident. . . . I dare say. But
on what ground?"
"Because I've told him that I was in great need
of some one, a fellow-countryman, a fellow-
believer, to whom I could give my confidence in
a certain matter."
"I see. I don't ask you what answer he made. I
confess that this is good ground for your belief
in Mr. Razumov's appearance before long. But he
has not turned up to-day?"
"No," she said quietly, "not to-day;" and we
stood for a time in silence, like people that
have nothing more to say to each other and let
their thoughts run widely asunder before their